A Colorado based activist group and a federal agency have struck a deal with hopes of ending a backlog on the listing of hundreds of threatened and endangered species. WildEarth Guardians and the Department of Interior (DOI) agreed to preserve 251 species on the list of candidates for protection by 2016, in exchange for no new lawsuits until 2017.
The agreement between WildEarth and the government settles a dozen lawsuits over species listing. Many of the 251 species sitting on the list are plants and invertebrates.
The DOI characterized the settlement as a work plan that will allow it to prioritize its efforts and bring clarity to species listing determinations.
The plan "will serve as a catalyst to move past the gridlock and acrimony of the past several years," Fish and Wildlife Service acting director Rowan Gould said.
The department claims time spent in court has been consuming most of the resources earmarked for its endangered-species-listing program.
The agreement establishes a timetable for publishing proposed listing rules or not warranted decisions for the 251 species by the end of September 2016. It also specifies deadlines for certain findings on other species, such as the end of 2012 for a listing decision on the Mexican wolf, which is endangered but classified as "nonessential experimental."
For its part, WildEarth will dismiss pending listing lawsuits and not file any new suits over the 251 species until March 2017. It also agreed to file a maximum of 10 listing petitions per year until the 2016 deadline.
Observers view this settlement with concern in that other organizations in the habit of suing the federal government are not restricted by the language against further lawsuits.
WildEarth apparently filed 700 of all 1,230 species listing petitions in the last four years.
Reprinted in part from www.courthousenews.com/2011/05/11/36507.htm